September 21, 2007

Cheap Backups

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 6:50 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

I was grateful the last few weeks that I had some good backups of my data and that I had it in several places. While I was at Photoshop World, I needed access to some of my PSD files for trying out some of the CS techniques in the evenings. So I went to VPN (I use Monowall as my firewall which supports PPP VPNs) into my iMac and nothing was on the other end. Hmmm says he… this is not good says I. So I had my better half be my eyes and hands and while the Mac would give the single bong, only a black screen met her eyes. So I had no access to the files on the iMac nor on the external HD attached to the iMac. But I had been testing using Amazon’s S3 servers to backup my phototshop files. I was able to get to them using Jungledisk and download several of the files I needed via my Sprint EVDO card (the stupid hotel wanted 15 bucks a day for internet).

Now the biggest issue with any online backup is performance and cost. I have been able to upload to Amazon’s S3 servers at the capped 500Kbps and my downloads have been typical of any high performance site. The cost? Well, to upload 3 gig of data and to download about 500 meg this month, cost me a grand total of 58 CENTS. Thats right, about half a buck plus cost of Jungledisk which was around twenty bucks for a licensed version. The FTP program Transmit now supports S3 servers so if I had waited just a few days, I could be piggybacked on my copy of Transmit but I’ve spent a lot more on a lot less over the years.

The same amount of data stored at GoDaddy would have cost me around $3.50 and Bingo would have cost about $4.00 so 58 cents is a deal and a half. The data on Amazon’s servers is in their normal production datacenters and it’s encrypted before it gets to the servers. So far as I know, there is not a size limit other than the pain of your wallet being emptied 🙂 A word to remember is “WebDAV” which is what all of this is based on. Also, Amazon has some fun reading materials and examples ready to go at the S3 Developers Connection.

Here is a very good piece at from Jeremy Zawodny, who is someone who replaced his home backup servers with Amazon’s S3

Here is Amazon’s own pricing model for S3 Storage

$0.15 per GB-Month of storage used

Data Transfer
$0.10 per GB – all data transfer in

$0.18 per GB – first 10 TB / month data transfer out
$0.16 per GB – next 40 TB / month data transfer out
$0.13 per GB – data transfer out / month over 50 TB

Data transfer “in” and “out” refers to transfer into and out of Amazon S3.
Data transferred between Amazon S3 and Amazon EC2 is free of charge

$0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests
$0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests*
* No charge for delete requests

Storage and bandwidth size includes all file overhead.

(Amazon S3 is sold by Amazon Web Services LLC.)

Amazon’s design behind their S3 service is very interesting in their approach. I really like the idea of lots of cheap servers with the intent they will fail frequently but they are so cheap to replace, it doesnt matter much. I know more than a few large scale networks that would do well to take some of these lessons to heart and forgo the very expensive solutions they have in place.

“Amazon S3 was built to fulfill the following design requirements:

* Scalable: Amazon S3 can scale in terms of storage, request rate, and users to support an unlimited number of web-scale applications. It uses scale as an advantage: Adding nodes to the system increases, not decreases, its availability, speed, throughput, capacity, and robustness.

* Reliable: Store data durably, with 99.99% availability. There can be no single points of failure. All failures must be tolerated or repaired by the system without any downtime.

* Fast: Amazon S3 must be fast enough to support high-performance applications. Server-side latency must be insignificant relative to Internet latency. Any performance bottlenecks can be fixed by simply adding nodes to the system.

* Inexpensive: Amazon S3 is built from inexpensive commodity hardware components. As a result, frequent node failure is the norm and must not affect the overall system. It must be hardware-agnostic, so that savings can be captured as Amazon continues to drive down infrastructure costs.

* Simple: Building highly scalable, reliable, fast, and inexpensive storage is difficult. Doing so in a way that makes it easy to use for any application anywhere is more difficult. Amazon S3 must do both. ”


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